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The Pipwick Papers

Sex-rays, granite and Barbie

[This edition was originally published on 2 Feb]

I just got back from the Maltese edition of the Global Game Jam (not to do with RPS work exactly, I was just doing the keynote and being interested in what all the students were up to). There were some neat things and I'll write about them if I get time but in the meantime here are a few of the articles I've been reading:

  • Barbie is getting new body types - petite, curvy and tall. Time has this in-depth piece by Eliana Dockterman about it. The parts I found most interesting generally were the lengths Mattel were going to in order to avoid any accusations that one body type of this new lot would have primacy. [NB I'm not sure why some people are getting subscription only on this - it might be a region thing where it's gated to US readers but not EU?]
  • Another interesting point was about brand awareness:

    “I brought my daughter to a Christmas-tree lighting with Santa and Barbie the other day,” says a mom in one of the focus groups. “If a black woman or a redheaded woman or a heavyset woman had shown up, my daughter would have been like, ‘Where’s Barbie?’” If Mattel takes away everything that makes Barbie an icon, is she still that icon?

    The other thing I found myself thinking about was this:

    Barbie was a businesswoman in 1963, an astronaut in 1965 and a surgeon in 1973 when 9% of all doctors were women. “Our brand represents female empowerment,” argues Dickson. “It’s about choices. Barbie had careers at a time when women were restricted to being just housewives. Ironically, our critics are the very people who should embrace us.”

    It's something I've heard before but it never rang true. The thing is, Barbie isn't an astronaut or a surgeon anything else. There's no longevity to any of these ideas, it's just another skin to put on the character - she's like a MOBA hero that you can dress up with item sets but without the lore or with constantly rewritten lore. As such I can't think of her as an astronaut or a surgeon or whatever else. She's a form who wears outfits. She's not about the career, she's entirely about the body. I know that's not how everyone feels, though.

    The article sort of touches on this when Dockterman notes that Frozen's Elsa "might be just as blond and waif-thin as Barbie, but she comes with a backstory of strength and sisterhood." Basically Elsa has been given the same body type but there's also this actual character you can root for.

    By the way, Stuff Mom Never Told You has an excellent episode about Barbie. It's called Barbie's Secret Past.

    I have accidentally written a lot about Barbie.

  • Ai Weiwei has an exhibition of his work in a department store in Paris. It's kind of weird - Slate/Ai's statement give this impression that art in a department store has never happened before. It's not the norm but it's not unheard of. I mean, to give just one example, Selfridges are always having art events or artist displays at their stores. Anyway. the works look really cool and I wish I could go see them in person.
  • I've just started listening to Master Rock which is a site-specific performance set in a man-made cavern inside a Scottish mountain. Here's the performance:
  • And here's an interview with the performer who voiced Granite

    As an aside, I also once wrote a blog post about granite.

  • A reader, Chris, sent in some suggestions too. One was this piece on ABC about octopuses and conflict resolution. Part of the study meant students "binge-watched 52 hours of GoPro footage of octopuses walking around and poking each other".
  • He also sent this about an exhibition of the floral x-ray photography of Dr Dain L Tasker which is currently on in California's Joseph Bellows Gallery.
  • I went through a phase of being interested in artworks and photography which use x-rays. I just looked through my old blog posts and apparently there was a point at which I was working out how to build an x-ray machine at home. It looked possible, but then it also looked possible to give yourself radiation-related sicknesses. On balance it's probably good that I scrapped that particular project.


    These aren't flowers but at the time I was looking at the work of Wim Delvoye. Viae Crucis is his rendition of the stations of the cross using x-rayed dead rats. The religious references didn't go anywhere interesting (it's standard juxtaposition shock value stuff from where I'm standing) but they acted as an excuse to look at the delicate little rat bones and jumbles of intestines. I really like one of his sex x-rays, though. Dick 3 [warning: this is literally a link to a picture of an x-rayed penis and a sex act so it's not safe for most work places]. There's something about the positioning of the hands and the gauzy transparency of the human bodies which I really like.

  • And finally:
  • I have listened to this far too many times.

    Watch on YouTube

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